Salongo Lee | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Salongo Lee

Photo by Courtesy Salongo Lee

As a photographer, visual artist, poet and bookmaker, Salongo Lee represents an intersection of new and old artistry. He is a digitally self-published writer, but also creates handmade books to house his visual art and poems.

Originally from New Jersey, Lee lived in California much of his life. A little more than five years ago, he moved to Natchez, where he is a member of the Mississippi Artists Roster and teaches workshops. Tomorrow he will teach a workshop called "Making Book: The Making of Hand Made Books" at Gallery1 on JSU's campus.

Lee, 65, makes both small, handheld books and large, installation-style book art pieces. "Usually my larger wall books, they are kind of political; they make statements," he says. "I have one at the (Montgomery bus center museum) on the Freedom Riders. It's constructed out of wood and found objects and even a model greyhound bus."

His larger pieces aren't bound by restraints on shape or function, Lee says. "They are traditional books (in that) they open and close, but beyond that it is anything I want to put in there." His smaller works are more personal, often containing his original poetry and images.

Although many modern bookmakers use traditional binding techniques such as Japanese stab binding or Coptic stitch binding, Lee says he won't be getting very technical in his class at Gallery1.

"It's a simple class," he says. "It won't require any expensive items to make the books. You can make them with a pair of scissors and an x-acto knife and glue."

Lee encourages participants to bring photos or found objects to create the books and journals. He plans to show them free-form kinds of bindings using twine or ribbon.

The Mississippi Arts Commission granted Lee a fellowship in photography in 2008, and has given him mini-grants each year since to pursue his art. He works with the Natchez Art Association and ArtsNatchez Gallery as well as showing all over the country throughout the year. His next big project is an exhibition and book from the 20 years he worked as a photographer for African American theater and dance companies.

The "Making Book: The Making of Hand Made Books" is tomorrow, Dec. 15, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Gallery1 (One University Place, 1100 John R. Lynch St., Suite 4, 601-979-9250). The workshop is $15; free for students. Register online by emailing [email protected] with "Making Book" as the subject line. Participants should bring text or images to include. Bringing a laptop or tablet is optional.

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